Saturday, September 10, 2011

Rugby World Cup 2011 - Ireland vs United States Preview

Tommorrow marks the tenth anniversary of the tragic events of September 11th 2001. While family members of the deceased as well as the country in general mourn and remember the day, fifteen men will take the field in name of the country as the USA take on Ireland in an opening weekend encounter in New Plymouth. The USA´s Rugby World Cup Media Manager, former USA Sevens players, Dallen Stanford, has confirmed that the USA Eagles will be wearing black armbands in their match with Ireland to commemorate the occassion. The Irish side are also to show their respect by wearing black armbands too while tournament organizers are to have the match start one minute late as they pay tribute to 9/11 in having a minute of silence prior to kickoff. Earlier in the day, the United States team will be attending a Memorial Service at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in New Plymouth.

The terrorism has left its mark on the USA Eagles team itself. Scumhalf and vice-captain, Mike Petri, was in his senior year of highschool at Xavier High School in Manhattan, New York when the attacks occurred. In an interview with Dallen Stanford he recalled that “Ten years ago, that was a dark day for everyone…you never forget something like that. It’s a huge honor for us to represent our country on that day. Hopefully we can do justice, in more ways than one, certainly, and connect with a lot of the rugby community in America that was affected.” The United States rugby community suffered greatly that day with the death of players including Mark Bingham, a former Berkeley (San Francisco) rugby player and the founder of the San Francisco Fog and Gotham Knights Jeremy Glick who played for the University of Rochester (New York). Both players were on flight United 93, which crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Bingham and Glick and at least two others are said to have stormed the cockpit in an attempt to regain control of the plane but in the struggle, the plane went down.

The match is thus, certain to be a truely global occassion of great significance and the choice of having the United States of America face Ireland extends the significance given the large number of Irish immigrants in the USA. In the year 1840, for instance, over half of all immigrants to the USA were from Ireland as huge numbers of catholics left to escape British rule, religious persecution and poverty. The USA government claims that relations with Ireland are important due to the common ancestral ties and shared values of the two countries. The countries have different sporting traditions with the likes of baseball, hockey and the NFL being American and gaelic football being Irish. Rugby, however, can be found across both countries and the popularity of the sport in both countries has been increasingly significantly in recent years. Curiously, Ireland have a USA born player in Ronan O´Gara who has been named on the bench.

Despite the common history of the countries and the fact that both have long histiories playing rugby, the first match between the USA and Ireland took place relatively recently, in 1994. It was the first of what have, thus far, been six international matches. Ireland won the match 26-15. Ireland have won all matches between the sides with the closest match taking place in Atlanta in 1996 with Ireland winning by seven points. The next three matches saw ireland win by big scores. The USA took longer than most sides to adapt to the professional era. Despite still being amateur, the country´national team has clearly progressed well in recent years. For the first time ever, the USA has more professional players than amateurs in its XV. Sunday´s match is to be only the second ever between the sides at Rugby World Cup´s. The other being a 53-8 win for Ireland in Dublin in 1999 with hooker Keith Wood scoring a record of four tries.

Key Match Up

Both sides are close to full strength but are not fielding their strongest XV. The USA will feel the loss of fullback Chris Wyles in this encounter as he would have been expected to have gioven the USA aconsiderable advantage against Irish veteran, Geordan Murphy. The clash of the wingers will be highly interesting with Ireland´s world class Tommy Bowe and Keith Earls in for a big contest against Taku Ngwenya and James Paterson. Brian O´Driscoll is Ireland´s star and will be up against a highly regarded opponent in Paul Emerick. Another interesting battle witll see the young Connor Murray face Mike Petri in the battle of the scrumhalves. The most interesting battles,  however, are to come in the forwards. Hayden Smith has come a long way in the secondrow and his clash with Paul O´Connell looms as a key one. Shane Jennings will need to perform well against the in-form Todd Clever who has been in the form of his life in 2011. The key match up however may well be Stephen Ferris vs Lou Stanfill. The battle of the number six´s will be important in all parts of play - from lineouts, to ruck, to ballcarrying to tackling. Both players are considered highly and the player who can impress most will not only come out with his reputation enhanced but also as having contributed significantly to his teams performance.


The USA will be going out with all guns a´ blazing in honour of the men and women who lost their lives ten years ago. Ireland have shown great respect for the USA Eagles in naming a stronger team than many experts were expecting. The first half should be competitive but Ireland should, in the end, overpower the United States after the interval to score a bonus point victory. Ireland to win by 15 points.


November 05 1994, Ireland 26-15 USA, Dublin
January 06 1996, USA 18-25 Ireland, Atlanta
October 02 1999, Ireland 53-8 USA, Dublin * Rugby World Cup 1999
June 10 2000, Ireland 83-3 USA, Manchester, New Hampshire
November 20 2004, Ireland 55-6 USA, Dublin
May 31 2009, USA 10-27 Ireland, Santa Clara

United States

1 Mike MacDonald
2 Phil Thiel
3 Shawn Pittman
4 John van der Giessen
5 Hayden Smith
6 Louis Stanfill
7 Todd Clever (Captain)
8 Nic Johnson
9 Mike Petri
10 Roland Suniula
11 James Paterson
12 Andrew Suniula
13 Paul Emerick
14 Takudzwa Ngwenya
15 Blaine Scully


16 Chris Biller
17 Matekitonga Moeakiola
18 Scott LaValla
19 Pat Danahy
20 Tim Usasz
21 Nese Malifa
22 Colin Hawley


1 Tom Court
2 Rory Best
3 Mike Ross
4 Donncha O'Callaghan
5 Paul O'Connell
6 Stephen Ferris
7 Shane Jennings
8 Jamie Heaslip
9 Conor Murray
10 Jonathan Sexton
11 Keith Earls
12 Gordon D'Arcy
13 Brian O'Driscoll (Captain)
14 Tommy Bowe
15 Geordan Murphy


16 Jerry Flannery
17 Tony Buckley
18 Donnacha Ryan
19 Denis Leamy
20 Eoin Reddan
21 Ronan O'Gara
22 Andrew Trimble

With Thanks:


  1. FYI,
    June 10 2000, Ireland 83-3 USA, Manchester, England
    was actually in Manchester, New Hampshire, USA. I was there and witnessed this slaughter.